In August 2017, Oregon passed a law making it illegal to drive while holding or using an electronic device (e.g., cell phone, tablet, GPS, laptop, etc.). The law goes into effect on October 1, 2017. Washington passed a similar law that went into effect on July 23, 2017.
The Oregon law expands existing restrictions that made talking or texting on a cell phone while driving illegal. The new law includes all other similar activities ranging from holding a cell phone to to selecting music on a handheld device while driving.
Employers should review their policies to ensure employees who drive a company vehicle or drive their personal vehicle for business reasons are prohibited from using mobile electronic devices for any purpose when driving to be in compliance with the new law.
Holding or using a mobile electronic device for any purpose while driving violated the law. The law does not apply to someone who activates or deactivates a mobile electronic device or a function of the device.
Under Oregon law, driving means operating a motor vehicle on a highway or premises open to the public, and while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. Driving does not include when the motor vehicle has stopped in a location where it can safely remain stationary and pulled over on the side of or pulled off a roadway; parked in a designated parking space; or when required to park in the roadway to conduct necessary utility maintenance work.
The following are the fines associated with each offense:
1. First offense, not contributing to a crash: Class B violation.
Presumptive fine $260. Minimum fine is $130; maximum fine is $1,000.
Course for First Time Offenders that does not contribute to a crash – Starting January 1, 2018, court may suspend the above fine if the driver completes an approved distracted driving avoidance course, and shows proof to the court within four months. Only the fine is suspended - the violation will still be recorded on the offender’s driving record.
2. Second offense, or first offense, if it contributed to a crash: Class A violation.
Presumptive fine $435. Minimum fine is $220; maximum fine is $2,500.
3. Third offense in ten years: Class B misdemeanor.
Minimum fine $2,000; maximum fine is $6,250. Could be one year in jail.
The new law does not apply to the following:
When using hands-free or built-in devices, if 18 years of age or older.
Use of a single touch or swipe to activate or deactivate the device.
While providing or summoning medical help and no one else is available to make the call.
When parked safely, i.e., stopped at the side of the road or in a designated parking spot. It is NOT legal to use the device when stopped at a stop light, stop sign, in traffic, etc.
HAM radio operators, age 18 years or older
Truck or bus drivers following the federal rules for CDL holders.
Using a two-way radio: CB users, school bus drivers, utility truck drivers in the scope of employment.
Ambulance or emergency vehicle operators in the scope of employment.
Police, fire, EMS providers in the scope of employment, (can include when in a personal vehicle if, for example, when responding to an emergency call).
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